Research Reveals the Best Family Vacation Spots: Where Does Your City Rank?

The travel season is upon us, and everyone is looking for picture-perfect, family-friendly spots to spend their holidays. This year, Americans are focusing on the local gems to avoid the hassle and expense of international travel with hefty overseas flights and travel insurance.

If you’re looking for more than just word-of-mouth recommendations, we have a list of ten unmatched spots in the US, as revealed by a recent study. 

Scoring Criteria

There’s no right or wrong way to rate a tourist destination. However, most people look for a combination of the following criteria when deciding on a vacation spot: 

  • Affordable lodging
  • Tasty food options
  • Plenty of family-friendly attractions and activities

The study we consulted based its ratings on the three criteria to develop a ten-point scale. Let’s see how the cities faired.

Ten Best Family Vacation Destinations

Miami, FL

Rating: 8.36/10 

Miami is a tropical paradise with a unique blend of sunshine, nightlife, and art. You can immerse in Miami’s South Beach’s vibrant nights, stroll along the stunning Ocean Drive, splurge at the famous Lincoln Road Mall, or explore the eclectic Wynwood Walls outdoor art exhibit. Miami has 680.54 restaurants per 100,000 people. No one leaves hungry.

Las Vegas, NV

Rating: 8.25/10 

Las Vegas is a true gateway to fun and entertainment. There are 29.87 family attractions per 100,000 people here. So let the kids explore the Adventuredome at Circus Circus, stuff their faces with M&M’s at the M&M’s World store, or take a ride of their lives on Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York.

In addition, the Fountains at Bellagio are a can’t-miss family attraction in Vegas. Finally, for outdoorsy types or anyone looking for a reprieve from Sin City, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a beautiful natural escape just a short drive from Las Vegas, where families can enjoy hiking, rock climbing, or picnicking.

Aside from family attractions, Las Vegas is known for its vibrant nightlife, world-class restaurants, and luxurious resorts.

San Francisco, CA 

Rating: 6.19/10 

If there’s any place in the US where Mickey Mouse and punk rock can co-exist, it’s San Francisco. Have family fun at the Aquarium of the Bay or visit the Walt Disney Family Museum. In addition, Alcatraz is a significant historical landmark to explore. Families can enjoy the iconic Golden Gate Park, with its museums, gardens, and playgrounds. Finally, ride the iconic cable cars and admire the Golden Gate Bridge. Remember to top the day off with a visit to Pier 39. 

Tucson, AZ

Rating – 5.92/10 

Tucson’s hotel prices are what draw most families in. It averages $446.89 for a hotel for four people. The city is a great place to explore the Southwest. 

Tucson has many family-friendly tourist attractions, including Saguaro National Park, Tucson Botanical Gardens, Biosphere 2, the Pima Air and Space Museum, and Catalina State Park, to name a few. Don’t miss out on a visit to the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.

Atlanta, GA

Rating – 5.84/10 

Atlanta is a foodie’s paradise with 497.96 restaurants per 100,000 people to grab a bite from. Unfortunately, ATL lacks many family-friendly attractions, so it doesn’t usually make it to a traveler’s list.

That said, you can still have a good time here. Visit the World of Coca-Cola Museum, stroll around Piedmont Park, or watch the pandas at Zoo Atlanta. 

Washington, DC

Rating – 5.36/10 

Visit the nation’s capital for a peaceful stroll through its iconic monuments, memorials, and gardens. Marvel at the brilliance of the Lincoln Memorial, immerse in the wonders of the National Air & Space Museum, or enjoy a day at the renowned Smithsonian National Zoo. There is so much to do in Washington, DC. However, hotel prices can be pretty high, with an average rate of $847.65.

Portland, OR

Rating – 5.31/10 

Portland is an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Take the family to Multnomah Falls, hike along Eagle Creek trails, or explore the wildlife in Washington Park. The Oaks Amusement Park will entertain the kiddos with old-school rides and games.

The Children’s Theatre Company shows are another great attraction for the young and the young at heart, offering a range of family-friendly productions throughout the year.

Seattle, WA

Rating – 4.92/10 

Although fun and exciting, Seattle’s expensive hotels, averaging $1,143.46 for four people, can strain travelers’ pockets.

That said, there’s no shortage of family fun here. Check out the Space Needle or the Seattle Aquarium, ride on the city’s monorail, explore the iconic Pike Place Market, or visit Chihuly Garden and Glass. In addition, the Woodland Park Zoo is an excellent place to take kids.

Mesa, AZ

Rating – 4.81/10 

Mesa is lower on the list because of a lack of family-friendly attractions. But the ones that exist are fun and exciting. Jake’s Unlimited has laser tag and VR for a fantastic time. Kids That Rip is an indoor skate park with a Ninja Warrior Course, dodgeball, and trampolines. Golfland Sunsplash offers a waterpark, mini golf, and bumper cars. Phoenix and Scottsdale overshadow Mesa, but who says Mesa lacks family attractions?

Tulsa, OK

Rating – 4.65/10 

Tulsa is natural – beautiful picnic spots and zoos with fascinating animals. There are also some thought-provoking museums for the history buffs. The reason Tulsa bottoms the list is because of the low number of attractions and restaurants per 100,000 people.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, may have fewer attractions and restaurants than other vacation destinations but has a lower price point. However, it still offers plenty of opportunities for families to enjoy nature and learn about history. In addition, the city is home to several beautiful parks and picnic spots where families can relax and enjoy the outdoors. 

Wrapping Up

As more Americans look for domestic vacation options, it’s helpful to have a guide to the best family-friendly destinations in the country. The rankings by FamilyDestinationsGuide, based on factors like hotel prices, number of restaurants, and family attractions, can help families choose the perfect spot for their next vacation.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.